Gary shot a pretty lean movie but did you have any scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut?
All the scenes I shot made it into the movie except we actually shot a Reaping scene for District 11 which was really cool. We had a guest director, Steven Soderbergh, who came in and oversaw that. It was cool to get a chance to work with him because he’s a director I’ve admired for years. It was a cool scene because it was all of District 11 and we had our mentor come out and reap us. It was a very sad scene. And the extras were incredible, the unsung heroes of movies because they create an environment for you. I’d look into the eyes of these people who were supposed to be your best friends, your neighbors, your co-workers and they would feed you that feeling of loss when you get reaped. Hopefully, if they do a 20th anniversary edition of The Hunger Games they can include that in the DVD someday.
Were you hyper prepared for the [audition] read?
It was super secretive. I couldn’t tell anybody about, not even my parents. I went in and read and it was just one page. I tell you, my roommate and I went to the same college together and is also an actor so he was the only person I told and we must have read that one page 50 to 100 times. It was like five lines but I practiced it in every possible way. So I felt very confident going into the audition. Also my managers sent me in because they know Debra Zane very well and they just wanted to see how I did in the room. But it led to me getting the role and I’m very aware that it doesn’t happen for people like that. I kind of have survivor’s guilt. [Laugh]
The film doesn’t glamorize the violence which makes it more horrific to watch the death scenes. What was Gary’s mandate about the combat scenes?
In the scene between Thresh and Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman), it’s a very quick scene. It’s not very choreographed because Gary wanted it to look dirty. He didn’t want it to look like a Japanese movie where the fighting is like a dance. He wanted it to look rough and you feel like the characters in those scenes are reacting from passion rather than calculating assassins. We were tied in very well to these character’s heads and I think it translated well.
When you watched the final film, what scene really got to you?
Honestly, with a character like [District 2 Career] Cato (Alexander Ludwig) it’s scary easy to make that character a cookie-cutter, bad guy archetype. The scene at the end where he says, “I’m already finished anyway,” to humanize that character to me was gold. A villain isn’t really a villain until you see some bit of humanity in him. You can look at a demon or something that is pure evil and watch them commit atrocities and you don’t feel anything because it’s not human. But to see a human being do things like that hits close to home. Seeing Cato humanized like that, it really makes you feel like if I grew up like that, would I be like that? When I saw that it made me think back on everything Cato had done leading up to that moment. Even though he’s got a twisted, psychotic purpose, it is a purpose and you somewhat empathize with him. That was amazing filmmaking to me and moments like that gave me chills.